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Renzi briefs Napolitano amid tension on reforms

Speculation Berlusconi's support may be waning

04 April, 19:54
Renzi briefs Napolitano amid tension on reforms (ANSA) - Rome, April 4 - Premier Matteo Renzi briefed President Giorgio Napolitano on his progress on measures to make Italy easier and cheaper to govern Friday, amid speculation the support of Silvio Berlusconi's opposition Forza Italia (FI) party is faltering.

Renzi's cabinet has approved a bill to change the Constitution to turn the Senate into a leaner assembly of local-government representatives with blunted lawmaking powers as part of a drive to make passing legislation easier.

It also introduced a new election law, which is set to be examined by the Senate after clearing the Lower House, and a plan to effectively abolish the country's provincial governments won definitive approval on Thursday. Renzi won ex-premier Berlusconi's agreement for the reforms in January before he unseated Enrico Letta, his colleague in the centre-left Democratic Party (PD), to become Italy's youngest-ever premier at the age of 39 in February.

But the centre-right FI has expressed doubts about the Constitutional reform bill the government presented this week, above all, the fact that 21 members of the new Senate would be nominated by the head of State.

Berlusconi's party also said the bill passed Thursday - which stripped the provinces of their powers before the Constitution is changed to abolish them completely - amounted to a "coup".

Renzi has said that he is confident FI will stay on board the reform programme and that his government will deliver on this and moves to revive the economy, with growth still weak after the country emerged from its longest postwar recession last year.

"We have abolished the provinces, we are travelling ahead like a steamroller," Renzi said on Italian television Thursday. Renzi also briefed Napolitano on the government's economic blueprint for the coming years, the Economic and Financial Document (DEF).

The DEF, which features Renzi's plans for 10 billion euros in income tax cuts targeting lower earners to boost the recovery, is set to arrive in parliament on Tuesday.